Mercury directly harms the human neurological system causing problems with speech and memory, among other symptoms. It may also be a useful motive for this collection's various protagonists.
Here we discover forty pieces of flash fiction and, as such, are glimpses into psyches that any one of which may one day play out into further scenes of a longer family saga. Single descriptions here would be unfair, inevitably giving too much away from such economical prose.
Favoured themes include murderous intent, vampirism, personal fears, food and, inevitably, 'the ways of love.' The stabs of black humour that peppered Back Burning (Interactive Press) (Petter's second collection, Pan Reviewed two years ago) are here further to the fore. Also present are its touches of humility that thankfully never descend to fake or awkward pathos.
Alongside the more fantasy-orientated sketches, the all-too-short 'true life' takes are, quite simply, moving, intimating the requisite life experience to expand into a future novel. (Elizabeth Jane Howard could do with a successor). So, Petter is especially strong when wryly reflecting upon seasoned relationships alongside those hoped for that may never be.
Uncanny glimpses occasionally wink from this necessity of what is left out; be it a near-fatal accident ('The Hook'), a window into the mind of a serial killer ('Widow's Peak'), a dalliance with temptation ('Golden Lover'), or an ambiguous motive (and a favourite, 'Uncle Henri').
The mature perspectives tantalise, crying out for a longer work, which, I hope, Petter will produce in the fullness of time.
Reggie Oliver has three works newly available. Virtue In Danger (Ex-Occidente) is a comic novel by the short tale master. Couched within retro theatrical covers and a design of decadent maroon, it tells of the fundamentalist Moral Regeneration Movement and its cult-ish members vying to take over from their adored but ailing leader. The narrative perspective is from one Ivor Smith, an indifferent, independently minded actor unwisely hired by the MRM to theatrically portray their message of high moral tonality. (While "for him the job was simply an escape from a failed marriage and a faltering career"). The lampooning, while undeniably present, is credibly restrained, with the satirical touch of the late Tom Sharpe. In inspiration, I was reminded of the moral campaigners of the Festival of Light and its leaders' attempts to conscript second-rate celebrities to its cause. Recommended. Also out is Oliver's Flowers of the Sea - Thirteen Stories and Two Novellas (Tartarus Press), his sixth collection of strange stories containing ‘Introduction’ by Michael Dirda, ‘A Child’s Problem’, ‘Striding Edge’, ‘Hand to Mouth’, ‘Singing Blood’, ‘Flowers of the Sea’, ‘Lord of the Fleas’, ‘Didman’s Corner’, ‘The Posthumous Messiah’, ‘Charm’, ‘Between Four Yews’, ‘The Spooks of Shellborough’, ‘Süssmayr’s Requiem’, ‘Come Into My Parlour’, ‘Lightning’, ‘Waving to the Boats’ and ‘Author’s Note’. Still available, also from Tartarus, (and reviewed in these pages), is The Complete Symphonies of Adolf Hitler.